by Ocean County, NJ
MYLAR BALLOONS, those metallic covered novelty decorations that come in a host of shapes and sizes, may be fine for parties or graduation celebrations, but they can be deadly to wildlife that thrive in Ocean County’s bays and other waterways.
“We are getting more and more reports of deflated or shredded Mylar balloons found floating in the bay and in the ocean,” said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “Some wildlife can mistake the balloons for food and try to consume them.”
While all balloons can pose a threat to fish, birds, reptiles and mammals, Vicari said the popularity of the Mylar balloons is adding to the problem.
“People like them because of the bright colors and various designs. You can find a Mylar balloon to celebrate just about any occasion,” he said.
Vicari asked that anyone using Mylar balloons keep them carefully tethered and do not let the helium-filled balloons escape. Afterwards, they should be disposed of properly in the trash.
Loose balloons that rise high enough and are caught in the wind can travel for hundreds of miles.
“Part of the problem we are seeing is the prevailing winds are bringing these balloons in from other states,” Vicari said. “Let’s set an example in Ocean County not release balloons.”
According to reports from across the nation, Mylar balloons also pose another threat.
“If these metallic-covered balloons strike power cables, they can cause widespread electrical outages,” he said.
California utility companies reported that Mylar balloons were responsible for more than 1,900 outages in that state in 2015.
“For everyone’s safety, please keep all balloons tethered,” he said.
Vicari said he discussed the Mylar balloon problem with representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection and local environmentalists at Wednesday’s Barnegat Bay Blitz at the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation Administrative Offices in Toms River.
“We spoke of the importance of educating people about unseen dangers of these balloons,” he said.
Vicari said plastics, including plastic bags and ringed six-pack can holders are also a growing problem in the bay.
“We ask everyone to please properly dispose of their plastics so they don’t threaten our wildlife,” he said.
Many supermarkets accept old plastic bags for recycling, Vicari added.
“The bags are used to make composite plastic decking for boardwalks and backyard decks,” he said. “Park benches are also made from the material.”